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Joshua Myrvaagnes

Yonkers, NY


Articles and Poems

an issue of Inspiring Newsletter:

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Inspiring Newsletter   

a newsletter for and its clients

Issue 5--May, 2008

                                                        an “aperiodical”—to speak when I am moved to speak
This is our newsletter.  It’s about all of our voices, and not just mine.  Please send your comments, stories, or anything that inspires hope in you to .  

I was recently working on a pro bono project, a newsletter for my spritual community, the East Coast Village, and had an amazing thing happen.  
    I’d been a bit reluctant to do this project, since it wasn’t paying and I was feeling anxious about other commitments, but the minute I started writing something happened.  I saw the land where our village is, I saw the leaves of the land, in my mind’s eye, and I felt the feeling of being on the land.  The many golden beech leaves that cover the forest floor like a luxuriously large carpet, the curling beech leaves themselves were calling to the reader of the newsletter.  It wasn’t just my voice, it was the land itself speaking, and the village, the whole community, the moments when we wept together in ritual space or when we went through some conflict to find the truth buried underneath.  
    The leaves are writing that newsletter, the land is writing it, and they are writing this one also.  
    I thought many times that here I ought to give some piece of advice, to say how you too can have the leaves write your newsletter or your marketing for you.  But I don’t have any, I don’t really have anything more to say about it than that it happened, and that it felt really good.  This is the community that means more to me than anything else on earth, and for you it’s some other thing, another community or an idea or a place or a culture, but whatever it is I wish you the blessing of feeling it speak through you without effort, of getting to step up and say who you really are in your heart to the whole world and remember all the most beautiful things about your life and how they came from that one thing.

As they say in West Africa,



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Invocation Before Speaking Lyric Poetry

I want to speak into that crystal silence,
Vacuum so black it pulls the poem
Out of my chest, out of the water, out of what I don’t know,
So I can collapse into the telling of it;
I want to be surrounded by others who think as I do,
Whose feelings pop in responsive dance to my words,
I want to hear “mm” at every heartbreaking image,
I want to hear sobbing, and “ashe,”

I want again to hear my own voice in my ears,
The one I hear in my head when I am alone.
I am alone now. I am in my room, writing poetry,
With paper and a pen, and no one watching,
Total freedom and absolutely-listening quiet,
Unjudging-Jove comprehension, true need.

Balm for America

This day you will hear the kora, unplugged, in every station, and not the train,
This day you will remember what it feels like not to be oppressed,
This day everyone’s poems will be published, there will be three dollars for the arts,
This day good will declare its independence from evil,

People will stop talking about taking action
And the lion make out with the lamb,
Women will not need to starve, money will make you happy,
You will cease internalizing that idea

That artists benefit from being paid less than thieves,
This day you’ll sleep enough, hear the sound of your thoughts,
And feel the earth through your leg, the weight of the earth.
I want I should cause you to feel that feeling,

But only if you’re not feeling it,
If you are, G-d will have another good job for me. 

Chinatown SSAT-Prep Poem

As I sat in the audience waiting my turn,
Listening to the other poets speak, and wishing
That one would truly move me, I suddenly saw
The kids in the SSAT class I teach,
Yellow liquid for skin, black curving heads,
Seated before me or standing,
Like spirits of the dead, watching me.

Do they want me to talk about their plight here?
Do they have hope of rescue, or mere feel-good talk?
That hearers of poetry will have some power to change
Whole social forces of two empires?

I hate them, little addicts—up out of his seat,
Again, a second later, up out of his seat.
I’d let them, but being homeless scares me, and homelessness,
And someone does get hurt. Someone’s spat in Zemin’s eye.
They think that that’s OK until I yell.
And I’m a coward not to send them out.

I’ve been their prison guard. I tried to teach
But they made it impossible, as much as the tests.
I tried to bring in Du Fu and Li Bai!
Though in truth I don’t really understand
Their poetry, and I overstepped the bounds
Of my job description, and of vanity.

I could work an easy job, I’ve often thought,
And write poems in the evenings, in gray light,
And read them at a poetry reading, in the dark room
With yellow light on me, an audience sitting.
But somehow I keep finding myself in classrooms,
And poetry’s not a thing I can control,
And you are not those grownups who came to the poetry reading,
You, sitting before me, my thin kids.


The Builders

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

All are architects of Fate,
Working in these walls of Time;
Some with massive deeds and great,
Some with ornaments of rhyme.

Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest.

For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our to-days and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.

Truly shape and fashion these;
Leave no yawning gaps between;
Think not, because no man sees,
Such things will remain unseen.

In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the Gods see everywhere.

Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house, where Gods may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean.

Else our lives are incomplete,
Standing in these walls of Time,
Broken stairways, where the feet
Stumble as they seek to climb.

Build to-day, then, strong and sure,
With a firm and ample base;
And ascending and secure
Shall to-morrow find its place.

Thus alone can we attain
To those turrets, where the eye
Sees the world as one vast plain,
And one boundless reach of sky.